Friday, December 30, 2005

My throne

Every princess (even if she is only such in her own mind) needs her throne. Check mine out.
I recently received some money from my late grandfather. I have a firm belief that money from a lost loved one should not be spent lightly (at least not all of it!) This was my big "in memory" gift. A lovely, cushy glide rocker in which to spend hours and hours knitting and reading. We need to get the Christmas decorations down and move some things around so it's not sitting in the middle of the living room floor. I think it will end up in the corner by the window. I'll be able to look out in spring and see the wisteria planted by my porch (it was planted in memory of my Grannie, Papa's late wife). I imagine it won't take long for the cat's to use it for bird watching too!


This was the other gift I gave myself from Papa.

A yarn swift. Shown here unwinding the KnitPicks Sock Landscape. It is a fabulous addition to my knitting collection. So much easier than trying to drape the yarn over the back of a chair.










Here's what I'll be doing this long holiday weekend.

Yeah baby, Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Glossary came today. I wasn't sure exactly what it would be like. I popped it in the DVD player and it's knitting demonstrations with Elizabeth and Meg! I was so excited to hear EZ teaching. As I've said before, I owe my deepest gratitude to her and her books for encouraging me (and all knitter's) to work through the learning curve and move on to be a successful knitter. I can't wait to watch the whole thing. I also have the Art of Knitting 2 DVD to finish watching. I watched the sock knit-a-long which helped me through the worsted socks very nicely.

And books on my newest fascination, soapmaking. I've been making melt and pour soups for a year now and feel it might be time to learn how to make "real" soap. I had given Chuck's aunt some of my M&P soap for Christmas. She later told me when she saw it, she got this vision of me making soap over a big kettle like some scene out of Little House on the Prairie. We both got a good laugh out of it, but it did get me thinking. I should at least make an attempt to learn how soap is made. This could open up a whole world of possibilities. Just what I need, another hobby! So far, it is very interesting reading, but it's a lot more time and money than I want to invest at the moment. But someday...We'll see.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Just past Christmas

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Ours was very good. Had a long weekend off work which made it even better. Everyone liked their presents. I got lots of really nice stuff. Mom got me a gift certificate to KnitPicks (AWESOME!) which I've already spent on this and this. Also received the Boye Needlemaster set of circular needles (well, used the Christmas money I received from my mother in law to get them. That counts, right?) Haven't had a chance to use them yet do to my new obsession (see below).

And now that they have been given, I can finally post pictures of Christmas present 1 & 2.
First are mittens knit for my sister. They are from KnitPicks Andean Treasure.


I love these mittens. So soft and warm. Unfortunately, they are a bit on the long side. I was afraid of that when I knit them. Even asked on the knit list if the pattern was right. The pattern is from Weekend Knitting (the garter cuff mittens). In hindsight, I will start the top shaping about 1/2 to 3/4 inch sooner next time.








Although a bit blurry, these are mom's mittens. Knit in Bernat Denim Style using a 2 needle mitten pattern from Yankee Knitter. The snowman buttons are a cute touch.



Having bowed to the challenge of the Sockotta socks I decided to try my hand at the worsted weight sock pattern I got a while back from Knitting Pure & Simple.

Here is the first sock, having turned the heel and racing down the foot. This was on Monday. Finished it on Tuesday. I'm a few inches into sock 2 now. I think I've finally found my true sock calling. These are knit with one strand Wool Ease and one strand of Knit Picks Sock Landscape on size US 7 needles. They are very thick and warm. Just fit in my clogs. I made a mistake picking up the gusset (picked up both legs of the stitch rather than just one) so there's a bit of a ridge down the sides. Probably won't be able to wear these with closed shoes. None-the-less, I'm ecstatic at my sock success. I'm already planning my next pair. I got tons of suggestions from the helpful girls at the Socknitters group on other dk and worsted yarns to try. I'll be hitting the internet this weekend to hunt some out for sure! It seems to work pretty well stranding the sock yarn with another yarn (although next time I'll strand with dk weight to reduce the bulk a bit). So all those lovely sock yarns I bought a few months back won't go to waste!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Not so divine

Well, my Divinity left much to be desired. Everyone talks about how hard it is to make Divinity. Since I made it once before with absolutely no trouble, I've pretty much poo-pooed all this talk. Apparently, the Divinity gods did not like my attitude and decided to teach me a lesson. After 45 minutes of waiting for the boiling sugar to come up to temperature, I finally decide my thermometer must be wrong and proceeded with the recipe. Well, lets just say I have a lovely batch of sweetened floor tiles rather than nice fluffy candy.

I more or less redeemed myself with a batch of cocoa fudge. But the thermometer didn't seem to be work properly with that process either. Guess I better pick up a new candy thermometer when I'm out.

We went to dad's Christmas cantata at church last night. The program was called Journey of Promises. It was a great concert. They had a live ensemble to accompany them this year instead of prerecorded music. They really added the extra umph. You just can't beat live instruments at a Christmas concert. The bell choir didn't perform this year, which was a little disappointing, but a wonderful night all the same.

Here is Quinn, enjoying the cat bed I knitted for her last month. As you can see, it's way too small, doesn't really cradle her so much as just gives her a warm pad to lay on. But she seems to love it none the less. I have it sitting on the end of my ironing board so she can watch the birds through the window.

And speaking of the birds... here are a few of the feathered friends we've had the last few days. I figured this would be a good way to practice with my new camera.


The blue jays are HUGE this year. Here's one of them snatching a peanut. Every morning about 7:00 they sit in my pear tree and screech until I put some peanuts out for them.





This little guy is new to my yard this year. I believe it's a chickadee (will have to get a bird book if I'm going to post pictures and sound like I know what I'm talking about!) We have two of them and they are the cutest little things.






Sunday, December 18, 2005

Narnia

My sister in law and I saw The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion , The Witch, & The Wardrobe yesterday while my husband and his mother did his Christmas shopping for me. The movie was stunning. Even better than I had anticipated. The animal characters were so well rendered, it was hard to fathom they weren't actually real. I was impressed with the movie makers for keeping the violent scenes (such as the war) brutal enough to convey the message with out any blood and gore. I had read the series long ago, borrowed from the church library. But going into the theater, I remembered little of the story or it's religious significance. It wasn't until a little later on, when I was trying to explain Aslan's sacrifice to SIL did it hit me full on how this movie reflects Christian values. I was thoroughly blown away by the movie. Highly recommended. I'm going to reread the series as soon as I can get my hands on them!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The day I've been waiting for

Check it out...
















That's right, folks. Lisa got herself a REAL, fully functional, lots to learn, non-POC digital camera! Woo-hoo. I will need to spend some time reading the book to figure out all the features and how to get some really great pictures. But these aren't bad for a start. Here's what Chuck & I did tonight whilst it snowed (again!)















Yummy Christmas cookies. We're trying to stick to a lo-fat diet and these are actually no-fat (recipe here). The colored sugar was Chuck's idea, but a darn good one at that. The are delicious, much like macaroons, and very cheery looking. We also attempted some fat-free oatmeal chocolate macaroons, but they didn't turn out, wouldn't hold together. We decided the resulting coated oatmeal would make a yummy, albeit sweet granola. If I can get ahold of my Grannie's divinity recipes, we hope to make a batch this weekend.


Finally, knitting. I finished these oh-so-toasty mittens for me.



















They turned out too big, so I hand felted them in the bathroom sink (my hands are still aching). I didn't want to machine felt them for fear they would shrink too much and I wouldn't be able to get them on. As it turns out, they are now perfect. I have the Port Orford sweater started. Only a few inches knit on the back so nothing much to show yet.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Snow, again

More snow today. 8 inches worth. This does not bode well when winter is still 2 weeks away! I had planned to take today off from work and get my Christmas Bread made. Turned out to be a great day for baking.

Christmas Bread has been a tradition since I was in middle school. In home-ec class, we learned to make a bread called Swedish Tea Ring. Over the years, it has evolved into Christmas Bread because I make it every year for Christmas. It's really quite simple, but wonderfully delicious. You make a batch of your favorite sweet dough (the bread machine comes in hand for this part). After the first rise, you roll the dough out to a nice size rectangle (you want it about 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick). Then brush a little (or a lot) of melted butter over the dough. Sprinkle liberally with sugar and cinnamon (some years I sprinkle on brown sugar too). Next sprinkle on any or all of the following (really, anything goes here): marischino cherries, chocolate chips, diced apples, raisins, chopped nuts. Roll up like you are making cinnamon rolls starting on one of the long sides and pinch the seam closed. Transfer the rolled dough to a cookie sheet, making sure the seamed side is done, and forming the dough into a ring. Pinch the two ends together and kind of squeeze the filling to get it as even as possible. Use a sharp knife to cut slashes around the top of the ring. Don't cut down too far, just enough so the filling shows through (the original recipe had you slice all the way through around the outside of the ring and then turn the slices so the cut side was showing. This works fine if you use just sugar & cinnamon, but with all the goop I put in, it leaks and sticks to the pan!) Bake at 350 for about 1/2 an hour or until done. These freeze really well, so you can make them well before Christmas and just heat them up Christmas morning. We like to make a powdered sugar glaze to put over the top. Yummy!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

It's beginning to look...

We had our first snowfall this past weekend. Can't believe it's starting already. I really don't like snow. It's fine for laying on the grass and frosting the trees, but it can just stay the heck off the sidewalks and streets. They are calling for more snow on Friday which means the grocery store will be packed when we go tomorrow. And heaven help us find a loaf of bread!

On the plus side, the snow does make it feel more Christmas-ie. I have finished all my Christmas knitting and nearly all my shopping. Just a few odds and ends to finish up this weekend. I started knitting myself a pair of mittens with KnitPicks Merino in Fog and Shimmer in a blue color (can't remember the name). They are thick and warm and I'm sure will be much needed this winter. I finished the left mitten (except the thumb) and am about half way done with the right. I took a break today and cast on the Orford Port sweater from Oat Couture using some wool/cotton/silk yarn I got off of Ebay. After spending the last month knitting (mostly) for others, it's nice to be knitting for me again.